comparison to other recent flight simulators, the system requirements
for Flight-Gear are not extravagant. Please find the basic requirements
in the following sub-chapters - the latest news and details you may find on
The present code supports the following Operating Systems:
- Linux (any distribution and platform),
- Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista/System7, as well for the Intel
as also for the AMD-platforms
- BSD UNIX
- Mac OS X:
- for OS-x you need as minimum "OS-X Version
10.4 on a Power PC G4 1.0 GHz or an Intel Mac
- for a
comfortable flight we suggest a MacBook
Pro, Intel iMac, Mac Pro, or Power Mac (Power PC G5)
There are available
lots of hardware, that can be used to build up complete Cockpits with
many Screens, Pilot seats, original Yokes, real Instruments, etc. etc.
But in the following we concentrate on a basic System with one screen
and one user. Hints for extensions you may find under "Features".
For the "Basics" we need:
A medium speed
AMD Athlon64 or Intel P4, even a decent AMD Athlon/K7 or an Intel PIII
should be sufficient to handle FlightGear pretty well, given you have a
proper 3D graphics card.
If you want to run FlightGear under Mac OS X, you need to have Mac OS X
10.4 or higher. Minimum hardware requirement for that is either a Power
PC G4 1.0GHz or an Intel Mac, but we suggest you have MacBook Pro,
Intel iMac, Mac Pro, or Power Mac (Power PC G5) for comfortable flights.
DriverThe most important prerequisite for running FlightGear is a graphics
card whose driver supports OpenGL. If you don’t know what OpenGL is,
see the overview given at the OpenGL website http://www.opengl.org, that
says it best: “Since its introduction in 1992, OpenGL has become the
industry’s most widely used and supported 2D and 3D graphics
application programming interface (API)...”.
FlightGear does not run (and will never run) on a graphics board which
only supports Direct3D/DirectX. Contrary to OpenGL, Direct3D is a
proprietary interface, being restricted to the Windows operating system.
You may be able to run FlightGear on a computer that features a 3D
video card not supporting hardware accelerated OpenGL – and even on
systems without 3D graphics hardware at all. However, the absence of
hardware accelerated OpenGL support can bring even the fastest machine
to its knees. The typical signal for missing hardware acceleration are
frame rates below 1 frame per second.
Any modern 3D graphics card, featuring OpenGL support, will do.
video card drivers", that support OpenGL, visit the home page of your
video card manufacturer - but also note that sometimes OpenGL drivers
are provided by the manufacturers of the graphics chip instead of by
the makers of the board. If you are going to buy a graphics card for
running FlightGear, a NVIDIA GeForce card-type is recommended, as these
tend to have better OpenGL support than AMD/ATI Radeon.
256MB of dedicated graphics memory will be more than adequate - many
people run FlightGear happily on less.
the executable and basic scenery, you will need around 500 MB of free
disk space. In case you want/have to compile the program yourself you
will need about another 500 MB for the source code and for temporary
files created during compilation. This does not include the development
environment, which will vary in size depending on the operating system
and environment being used. Windows users can expect to need
approximately 300 MB of additional disk space for the development
environment. Linux and other UNIX machines should have most of the
development tools already installed, so there is likely to be little
additional space needed on those platforms.
For the sound effects, any capable sound card should suffice.
supports a wide range of joysticks and yokes as well as rudder pedals
under Linux and Windows. FlightGear can also provide interfaces to
full-motion flight chairs. See also the chapter Joysticks.
FlightGear is being developed primarily under Linux, a free UNIX clone
(together with lots of GNU utilities) developed cooperatively over the
Internet in much the same spirit as FlightGear itself. FlightGear also
runs and is partly developed under several flavors of Windows. Building
FlightGear is also possible on a Mac OS X and several different
UNIX/X11 workstations. Given you have a proper compiler installed,
FlightGear can be built under all of these platforms.
The primary compiler for all platforms is the free GNU C++ compiler
(the Cygnus Cygwin compiler under Win32).
Flight-Dynamics Models (FDM)
FlightGear was based on a flight model it inherited (together with the
Navion airplane) from LaRCsim. As this had several limitations (most
importantly, many characteristics were hard wired in contrast to using
configuration files), there were several attempts to develop or include
alternative flight-models. As a result, FlightGear supports several
different flight models, to be chosen from at runtime:
- Possibly the most important one is the JSB flight model
developed by Jon Berndt. The JSB flight model is part of a stand-alone
project called JSBSim: http://jsbsim.sourceforge.net/.
- Andrew Ross created another flight model called YASim for
"Yet Another Simulator". YASim takes a fundamentally different approach
to many other FDMs by being based on geometry information rather than
aerodynamic coefficients. YASim has a particularly advanced helicopter
- Christian Mayer developed a flight model of a hot air
balloon. Curt Olson subsequently integrated a special “UFO” slew mode,
which helps you to quickly fly from point A to point B.
It is even possible to drive FlightGear’s scene display using an
external FDM running on a different computer or via named pipes on the
local machine – although this might not be a setup recommended to
people just getting in touch with FlightGear.
- Finally, there is the UIUC flight model, developed by a team
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This work was
initially geared toward modeling aircraft in icing conditions, but now
encompasses “nonlinear” aerodynamics, which result in more realism in
extreme attitudes, such as stall and high angle of attack flight. Two
good examples that illustrate this capability are the Airwave Xtreme
150 hang glider and the 1903 Wright Flyer. More details of the UIUC
flight model can be found at http://www.ae.illinois.edu/m-selig/apasim.html
FlightGear Programs and Data are stored on your PC in several
directories. Sorry enough those directories are named and structured
different for different Operating Systems. But when you update the
program, or add features, or scenery, or models you need to know and
reference some basic directories again and again. So we define here
the major variables for all systems - and will refer to those
throughout the Manual.
After you have installed FlightGear once (and it is operational), you can always look up those Variabels:
- Either in the running FlightGear under "menu-bar → debug (in older versions "File") →
Browse Internal Properties → /sim" see the variables beginning with "fg-.."
- Or by starting FlightGear with the option "--version".
variable defines the directory in which FlightGear looks for its data,
like XML-programs, airplanes, navigation-aids, airports, etc. Usually
that variable is set automatically during the installation of the program. If
you want to know what it is in your system, you find it in the running
FlightGear under: menu → debug →
Browse Internal Properties → sim
Typical values are:
for Mac OS X:
This variable defines where FlightGear looks for Sceneries.
Basically $FG_SCENERY is setup as $FG_ROOT/Scenery
- but you may change
that - you even may assign multiple directories and/or external drives
for it. For how to install additional Sceneries and how to assign those
to the $FG_SCENERY-variable see the
chapter Installing scenery.
Typical values are:
for Mac OS X:
you also need to access the directory in which the program itself is
you want to know what it is in your system:
- right-click onto your
start-icon and check the "Properties →
search for the "fgfs" command
Typical values are:
FlightGear saves the most recent settings of each user in his "Home
Directory", to recall those at each start. The path to that directory
is defined by the Operating System and cannot be changed by FlightGear.
But Sometimes you may want to add or delete or save some of the data from
there. Also: If you have some "unexplainable, bad behavior of
FlightGear" you may want to delete (or better just rename) that
directory. With the next start of FlightGear that directory will be rebuild again -
but of course your last settings are lost (you may retrieve those or part of those from the "renamed" one, see above!).
Typical values are:
(watch the point in front!)
In order to use FlightGear you have to install the already compiled Binaries or download the Scripts and compile them. Together
with that also the Directory $FG_ROOT
with all the airplanes, sceneries, control programs, etc. will be
You can download all needed parts for all Operating-Systems
On this page you also find hints on how to install it.
Watch out: Depending
on the Security-Settings of your System, you may have to ask your
Administrator to do that for you, inclusive opening Ports in the (hopefully used) Firewall! If so, you should ask him to allow
you unlimited access to the directory $FG_ROOT
- that way you can later on add aircrafts, sceneries etc. without
bothering the admin each time!
In case you always want to have the very newest level of code you may
look into the "GIT"-distribution, see FlightGear WIKI http://wiki.flightgear.org/index.php/Git.
But be aware that in there are the very latest design-proposals - which
are there mainly for testing! They may not yet be "error-free"!
Detailed FlightGear scenery is available
for the entire world, allowing you to fly everywhere from the Himalaya mountains to rural
Kansas. The FlightGear base package
just contains scenery for a small area around San Francisco, so to fly
elsewhere you will need to download
additional scenery (no worry: It is charge free!).
Each piece of scenery is packaged into a
compressed archive, or tarball, in a 10 degree by 10 degree chunk. Each tarball is named
after the 10x10 degree chunk it represents,
for example w130n50.tgz.
You can download scenery from a clickable
Alternatively, you can support the FlightGear project by purchasing a
complete set of scenery for the
entire world from here: http://www.flightgear.org/dvd/
To install the scenery, uncompress the tarball and store it into the $FG_SCENERY directory.
Most operating systems provide tools to uncompress tarballs. If you
cannot uncompress the tarball, install an extractor program such as
"7-zip" (http://www.7-zip.org/). Note that you should not decompress the
numbered scenery files inside the tarball like e.g. 958402.gz - this will be
done by FlightGear on the fly.
Once you have uncompressed the tarball, the Terrain and Object
directories inside $FG_SCENERY
will contain the additional sub-directories with your new scenery
inside. To use the new scenery, simply select a starting airport within
the new scenery.
If you are using the FlightGear Launcher (FGrun), you must restart it and/or you may have to press the
Refresh button (on FGrun Page 3) before you select your airport.
for addon Sceneries
may prefer to download and store some scenery in different directories
(and/or on a different disk and/or PC etc.). You may even have many different
directories for different bunches of sceneries. Some of them may not yet
be released and thus may be withdrawn again. Or your "Oldie"-PC needs
some more Disk-Space, or whatever. Thus you may have a directory for you
homebase-area, and others for different events, and even others for
You can do so by just defining the directory or directories to be used
in the $FG_SCENERY Variable.
The program will search through all directories you have defined in the $FG_SCENERY and
will use the needed scenery-piece first found. Just write all the
directories you want into one line and separate them by a special sign:
We will revisit how to define the $FG_SCENERY during the "Briefing"
for Unix/Linux and Mac OS X Systems
- searches first for the scenery in
- followed by a search in
"/usr/local/share/Flightgear/data/Scenery" only if the
needed piec of scenery had not been found yet!
- for Windows
Systems use “;”
- e.g. $FG_SCENERY=c:\Program Files\FlightGear\data\Scenery;c:\data\WorldScenery
- searches first in "c:\Program Files\FlightGear\data\Scenery"
- and then in "c:\data\WorldScenery" - only if not found already.
Scenery as you fly = TerraSync
comes with a tool named "TerraSync", which allows you to fetch/download the Scenery as you
fly - if you have a permanent Internet connection at your disposal.
But be aware:
"TerraSync" needs quite some additional PC-resources - so if you have
already a shaky performance you should not use this option!
To use TerraSync create an empty ‘working’ directory for "TerraSync"
that you have "Write-Access" for, and point FlightGear to this directory
using the $FG_SCENERY
variable. Do not let TerraSync download Scenery into your
original, pre-installed Scenery directory, because there always may
occur problems on your permanent Internet-connection, and that might
destroy the data in the active directory! (Of course you may copy those new data into your normal Scenery-Folder, after you are sure the data are functional!).
TerraSync expects you to feed FlightGear’s current position via the so
called ‘Atlas’ protocol - so
start FlightGear as follows:
- With FGrun
- define the "TerraSync"
program on FGrun page 1. See the
Input-field "Terrasync exe"
and the search button to its right. Search for the program "terrasync"
- In the field "FG_SCENERY" on FGrun page 1 define the directory for the now to be downloaded scenery
- and activate the "Atlas"-protocol and the TerraSync program on FGrun page 4.
- Without FGrun
- start the "TerraSync" program on a command-line with:
-p 5505 -S -d
- then start fgfs with the Atlas option (and all the others you use normally):
Watch it: You must define the same Port
(e.g. as shown: 5505) for both
You may find further details on http://wiki.flightgear.org/index.php/TerraSync
There is a "chicken/egg" problem when you first start up
on an airport in a brand new
area! FlightGear then searches for the scenery available at startup -
but only finds and thus loads the "not existing (or old) scenery"- i.e.
you may see only "blue water all over"! Therefore it’s suggested to
after TerraSync has caught up and then restart FlightGear. There
is no such Problem when you enter a new Scenery-area during an ongoing
Note that TerraSync (when
called with the recommended "-S"
option) is going to download the Scenery via
the Subversion protocol over HTTP. Thus, if your Internet access is set
up to use a HTTP proxy, please make yourself aware of how to configure the
"libsvn" Subversion client for use of a proxy. If you are using Mac OS
X 10.5, the GUI launcher automatically specifies "-S" if svn is available.
One major benefit of TerraSync is, that it always fetches the latest and
greatest scenery from the FlightGear World (Custom) Scenery Project and
therefore allows you to pick up incremental updates independent of the
comprehensive World Scenery releases, which are generally synchronized
with FlightGear releases.
If you are interested in generating your own Scenery, have a look at
TerraGear - the tools that generate the Scenery for FlightGear are:
The most actively maintained source tree of the TerraGear toolchain is
co-located at the FlightGear landuse data Mapserver
Models used in
Sceneries (and other Models) use a lot of Sub-Models, e.g. there are
may "light-towers" and "gates" etc. on an airport, for which you just
create 1 model and then use this "Sub-Model" many times in many
"Master-Models" all over the world. Such "Sub-Models" are not
contained within the "Master-Model", but must be downloaded from http://scenemodels.flightgear.org/download/.
On that page click on "here" which is
in the line "A collection
of shared models
can be downloaded here“. Extract those compressed data as
usual (see above) and copy them into the directory $FG_ROOT/Models.
You should do that from time to time - because many people are creating
new scenery and models all the time. You may notice missing ones when you
see entries like “Model xyz not found” in your "FlightGear-Log"!
The base FlightGear package contains only a small subset of the
aircrafts that are available for FlightGear. Developers have created (and constantly do create) a
wide range of aircraft, from the first "wrightFlyer1903", over WWII
fighters like the "Spitfire",
one- and multi-engine Planes, to "jet-Fighter" and passenger planes
like the "Concorde", "Boeing
747", "A380", etc. You can download many more aircrafts from: http://www.flightgear.org/download/aircraft-v2-4 (charge free!)
Simply download the files and uncompress them into the $FG_ROOT/Aircraft subdirectory
of your installation. The aircrafts are downloaded as "*.zip" files.
you have uncompressed them, there will be a new sub-directory in your
$FG_ROOT/Aircraft directory containing the aircraft. Next time you run
FlightGear, the new aircraft will be available. (If you use FGrun you need to restart it before it can find those new aircrafts!)
Please see the "Special Notes" for "Windows" and "MAC" at the end.
Most of the packages named above include the complete FlightGear
documentation including a PDF version of "The FlightGear Manual" intended
for pretty printing using Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, available from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/.
Moreover, if properly installed, the HTML version can be accessed via
menubar while FlightGear is running - see the entry under the "Help" menu.
Look also into the $FG_ROOT/Docs directory: There you find
lots of "README.xyz" ("xyz" being the name of a detail) - those are
descriptions of the detail from the designer. They usually describe a
lot more then we do here in the Manual.
Also you find a constantly increasing amount of articles, written by
users, in the FlightGear Web-pages:
Of course You are most welcome to add or improve Articles in that WIKI's!
Special for WINDOWS
Windows Vista & Windows 7
you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you may find that Windows
installs downloaded scenery and/or aircrafts to your Virtual Store:
If it does this, you need to copy the Terrain and Objects directories
manually to your real FlightGear Scenery directory as described above.
Mac OS X
You may install the downloaded Tarball_data-files (scenery, aircraft, etc.) by using the "GUI
- Open the "Advanced Features" and select the function "Install Add-On data" --> "Others". That
opens up the file browser window. Selecting one or more scenery data
files will install the scenery data into
Acceptable formats for the scenery data are one of zip, tar.gz, tgz,
tar, and extracted folder. If the installation via the GUI launcher
fails for some reason, you still have an alternative way to install
the data. Opening the data folder by pressing “Open data folder” on the
"Others" tab will pop up a Finder window for the data folder: Dragging
an aircraft folder to the "data/Aircraft" folder (or a scenery folder) under the data folder will get the job done.